A deposition is one of the most important parts of a lawsuit. Studies show up to 97% cases settle at or near the time of trial. This is right after depositions have occurred. Although very few people ever go through a deposition it is crucial that those that do use the following principles for success. It is my sincere belief that the reason why we are so successful in our cases is because our clients are ready for their depositions. Read on to see a common problem.
Dear Attorney Cheng, my deposition is going to be taken shortly. I am so scared. The attorney that we hired said that it will be an easy process. I went through a deposition in Taiwan and it was horrible. Can you please advise me what to do? By the way, this is a patent infringement case. Mercedes – Bakersfield
Dear Mercedes – I appreciate your question. Depositions are very difficult. It does not matter what area of law the deposition occurs in. However, if handled correctly, the following steps will lead to a successful case.
1.In every deposition the attorney will ask you did anything happen to you recently that would affect your ability to answer truthfully or perform competently during the deposition. The answer should always be: “YES.” The reason why this is important is because there is not one person in the world (apart from experts that give answers in depositions) that will have perfect the day of the deposition.
2.Understand the purpose of a deposition is to get you to answer things as clearly as possible. There would be no purpose of the deposition if the attorney cannot get to give a final answer. Hence, when an attorney asks a yes/no answer think about what the attorney is asking. If the answers leaves you with no further explanation, then you need to be careful. In my opinion, you always need to leave yourself an out in case you need to change your trial if the case goes to trial.
3. Don’t guess at the question. Always wait until the attorney finishes the question before answering. No matter what, you will never be smarter than the attorney because you do not know what the attorney is thinking.
4.The Court Reporter does not take down emotions. Very few depositions are taken by video. Almost all are done by a person typing down what the person is saying. Hence, emotions, such as anger and confusion, cannot be understood. The eventual outcome of a deposition is in a book form. Just a like a book, it is imperative for you to state something, explaining what you mean, if you feel it. For instance, if you don’t understand a question, don’t just frown and answer. Specifically state: “I don’t understand your question.” If the attorney is being abusive. For instance, standing over you or speaking in a loud tone, specifically state: “Why are you standing over me, why are you yelling at me.”
5.Object when you feel that something is wrong. Attorneys are people too. They make mistakes. One time, I was taking a deposition. My partner was a very pretty woman. As I was asking the questions, which were completely objectionable, the other attorney was so in love by the female attorney I was able to win the case without a fight. Hence, if something is wrong, object to it. If you are doing something wrong, your attorney will pull aside and tell you.
6.Understand that you control the deposition. The attorney will frequently try to make it seem that you, the deponent, are entering into a mysterious world that only the attorney controls. That is not true. If you refuse to talk, there is no deposition. Hence, if you feel sick, if you feel confused, always ask to take a break. There is no shame in asking for time. The attorney will try to force you to stay. Frankly, there is no law that says you must absolutely stay. Can you imagine how outrageous it would be for an attorney not to allow you to go to the bathroom when your stomach is aching!?
7.Understand the elements of the law. Frequently, attorneys make clients feel that only they know what needs to be proven. That is not true. Eventually, if the case does not settle the people that you will have to speak to about the law are also non-attorneys. If your own attorney cannot explain to you the law, how can he/she explain the law to the jury?
Depositions are very important events that can make or break your case. After reading this, I know you will do great.